Overnight in the US, HP unveiled its answer to Apple’s iPad; a new tablet based on the webOS operating system it acquired with Palm. But it remains unclear whether the device will launch in Australia — with its webOS predecessors never having made it down under, and no details on local availability having been confirmed as yet.
In its press conference, HP made no specific mention of international availability of the device, noting that it would be available “this summer” in the US — which means Australia’s winter, or in the middle of this year. A HP spokesperson contacted this morning has not yet responded to a request for comment on the issue.
The device itself appears physically similar to the iPad, with a 9.7″ display, a screen resolution of 1024×768, a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon CPI, and inbuilt camera and Wi-Fi access — with what HP is billing as 3G and “4G” versions down the track. And it runs webOS — the Linux-based operating system which HP acquired with its Palm buy in early 2010.
Despite a degree of popularity in the US, Palm never launched its next-generation smartphone, the Pre, in Australia. Likewise, HP has not confirmed whether two next-generation models also unveiled overnight — the Pre 3 and Veer handsets — will come to Australia.
Although the Pre never launched Down Under, however, there is a small community of users already in existence in Australia who have imported devices from overseas, attracted by the Palm operating system’s Linux groundings and hackable nature.
One such enthusiast — Australian open source developer Jeff Waugh — said he could understand the fact that no concrete international plans for the TouchPad were announced during HP’s press conference today, but pointed out that HP had mentioned word “global” during the event. However, he said, he would definitely import the TouchPad if it wasn’t made available in Australia “soon”. “They’re really coming through on the promise of a combined HP and Palm,” he said.
Waugh has been involved in a slew of open source projects — ranging from the Ubuntu Linux distribution to the GNOME user interface and more. The developer said you could easily put an off-the-shelf webOS device into developer mode, with full root access, with a special entry code leaked online.
This had driven what Waugh described as a “GREAT homebrew community” led by an Australian developer. “It’s not 100 percent open source, but it’s built on open source components, they’ve engaged with the community well, very open approach,” he said.
Waugh’s main worry with the TouchPad was that it could be heavier than the iPad, which comes in at 730g for the 3G model. However, the TouchPad will weigh virtually the same thing. Some are speculating that the next iteration of the iPad could be lighter. But Waugh was philosophical about the idea. “No mobile OS is as good as webOS tho!” he said.
Image credit: HP